Extraction Site Preservation
There is a special type of bone surrounding your teeth. This bone is called alveolar “ridge” bone (jaw bone), and exists solely to support your teeth. As soon as the tooth is removed, this bone begins to degenerate and “melt away”. The overlying gum tissue melts away with the alveolar bone and thins out as the ridge flattens. This occurs in two dimensions. The first is loss of horizontal width caused by the collapse of the bone surrounding the tooth socket. This makes the remaining ridge narrower than when the tooth was present. The second is a loss of vertical height. This makes the remaining bone less “tall”. This process is faster in areas where you wear a partial or complete denture.
You have many options to prevent this, and it is important that you consider them BEFORE any teeth are extracted. Some of these procedures are best performed at the time the tooth is removed.
When you need to have a tooth or teeth extracted, whether extraction is due to tooth decay, fracture, abscess, gum disease or traumatic injury, a socket site preservation is recommended to preserve as much of your underlying jawbone as possible for your future restorations.
You will always have several choices for replacing newly missing teeth. All of the options rely on bone support and bone contour for the best function and esthetics. Here is a list of possible options for tooth replacement.
- Dental implants: These are root-shaped supports that hold your replacement teeth. The more bone support you have, the stronger the implant replacements will be. In some cases, the bone can degenerate to a point where implants can no longer be placed without having more complex bone grafting procedures to create the necessary support. Obviously, preventing bone loss is much easier that recreating the bone later.
- Fixed Bridge: This is a restoration that is supported by the teeth adjacent to the missing tooth space. The replacement tooth or “pontic” spans across the space. If the bone is deficient, there will be an unsightly space under the pontic that will trap food and affect your speech.
- Other replacement alternatives include removable partial or full dentures. These often perform better with more supporting bone as there is added support against dislodgement.
There are two important phases in retaining your alveolar ridge during and after the tooth extraction. Non-traumatic extraction techniques are designed to preserve as much bone as possible and reduce bleeding and discomfort. Following non-traumatic extractions, bone replacement material is added to the extraction socket to prevent the collapse of the socket.
There are several types of bone grafting materials and techniques. Dr. Biebuyck will discuss the most appropriate one with you. After the tooth is extracted, the socket will be packed with bone or bone substitute and covered with an absorbable or Teflon membrane then sutured. Early on, the grafting material will support the tissue surrounding the socket, and in time will be replaced by new alveolar bone. This bone will provide an excellent support should you choose restorative treatment with dental implant-supported replacement teeth in the future.
Although the bone created by socket grafting supports and preserves the socket, it will not do so indefinitely. Placing dental implants 5 – 12 months after the extraction and socket grafting will provide the best long-lasting support for preserving your jawbone and allow you to function as before as well as prevent future degradation.
In some selected cases it is possible to actually extract the tooth and place the dental implant at the same time.